For a while, there was hope after the Proteas posted a demanding target of 232. Then Chris Gayle stepped on to the field and produced an innings which destroyed all that had gone before, helping the West Indies to a four-wicket win with four balls to spare.
It was the highest successful run chase in T20I history.
There was hope, too, when Gayle went for 90 off 41 balls, with nine fours and seven mighty sixes. And when five wickets fell for 30 runs.
But such is the depth of the West Indies, and so fine are the margins when bowling to such talent, that it was not enough.
The disappointment is that the loss of the match and the series overshadowed the magnificent innings of Proteas captain Faf du Plessis, who became the highest scoring South African in this format with 119.
Perhaps the Proteas bowlers could have been tighter, particularly Kyle Abbott, who went for 34 off his first two overs with a string of full tosses. Of those, 22 came off the bludgeoning bat of Gayle in Abbott’s second over. More damaging was the 18 he conceded in the penultimate over.
Gayle rubbished the Proteas with 77 off 31 balls in the first T20, at Newlands on Friday, but this was even better. The pressure was higher, given that the West Indies were asked to score at over 11.6 an over.
The iconic West Indian, man of the match again, and Marlon Samuels put on 152 in 12 overs for the second wicket, making the target so much more manageable. Such was the power and charisma of Gayle that Samuels’ effort was almost unnoticed, but at one stage he had a strike rate of 180.
Gayle’s dismissal was tame, well caught by Morne van Wyk as he tried to steer Marchant de Lange down to third man. Samuels went soon after for 60 off 39 (7×4, 2×6). But even though wickets fell, some to poor deliveries and wild strokes, the target remained in touch. darrenn Sammy, with 20 off seen balls, saw them home.
Du Plessis’ century was aggressive and innovative. With 11 fours and five great sixes, it was 34 better than his previous best, scored against Sri Lanka in 2013.
The captain was particularly strong on the leg side, quick and accurate enough to gain three boundaries from clever scoop shots. He was out on feet towards the end, leaning on his bat, agony etched on his face, but he was still up for a six and a four off Cottrell which brought his his hundred; and a flat pull for six through wide midwicket which brought up the Proteas record. He went for one too many in the 19th over and holed out to Bravo at long-on off Jason Holder.
David Miller finally produced what he had been promising for so long, a whirlwind 47 off 26 balls,with four fours and six; his highest score for South Africa. But even then, he was junior partner in a stand of 105 runs in eight overs for the third wicket with Du Plessis, who contributed 54. They had a run rate of 12.85 during that entertaining cameo, which included Miller launching one delivery from Dwayne Bravo on to the Wanderers golf course.
Miller went to a bizarre bit of footwork by Russell, who kicked the ball on to the stumps as the dynamic duo went for a quick single. Du Plessis put on another 30 with Justin Ontong (19) and although the innings went a little flat thereafter, the hope shone bright. For a while.